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Healthcare marketing in times of crisis: Don’t proceed with caution

It might seem natural for healthcare marketers navigating the pandemic to put the breaks on their efforts—they shouldn't.

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As the pandemic continues to spread across the world, it’s imperative to understand that many of its implications on healthcare and health safety will be permanent. As such, marketing in the healthcare arena has become a rocking boat, changing its tilt as the wind alters the virus’s course.

As in all  fields, healthcare providers and companies are currently going through a variety of changes, such as work overload, bankruptcy, working from home, etc.  So it’s no surprise that healthcare marketers reaching out to these same people will receive responses such as “sounds interesting, but we are too swamped for it now,” “we are cutting down staff, all new budget requests are on hold,” and, “let’s talk again in six months.”

To marketing and sales specialists, these responses are a dagger to the heart, but they are expected. Just as we learn to accept rejection during our teen years, so too do we become numb to being snubbed by sales targets on a daily basis. While you can’t convince your crush to like you in high school, you can improve your professional persuasive skills and marketing pitches to entice prospects. Yes, data is always changing and analyzing it is extremely important for achieving a company’s goals. But what are we supposed to do when the world is flipped on its head and none of the data we’ve accumulated matters anymore? Online campaigns, cold calls, newsletters, and prospects in the funnel all have different outcomes today than they did before COVID-19 struck.  

There are two main strategies for navigating this new landscape:

  1. Save your strength: The basic assumption under this approach is that it is just not the right timing. Most prospects are simply too overwhelmed with changes, and some of them might be dealing with their own personal disasters at the moment. It’s best to give them some time to process, wait for things to calm down, and gently check up on them every once in a while. During this time, we can focus our efforts on strengthening marketing foundations with extra touch-ups on our website, brochures, content, PR, etc. 
  2. Adapt and adjust: On the other hand, some marketers argue there is no such thing as bad timing. It is all about the right message to fit current reality. By adjusting key messages according to market feedback, and using creativity and uniqueness to differentiate their publications from others, it is possible for healthcare marketers to succeed and stand out in the current chaos of the healthcare arena.

Of course, real life is a bit more complex than the linearity of these two strategies. Like most in most other situations, a combination of the two will serve healthcare marketers best. Some prospects will not be open to any type of communication whatsoever during the coming months. For those typecasts, it is better to take a gentle, nurturing approach until the future becomes clearer and they become more approachable. 

Today, as much as it’s hard for healthcare providers and organizations to make a move toward novel treatment tools, even if it is ten times harder than in their normal routine—technology is something that all healthcare organizations must include in their survival kit. When a flood is headed your direction, don’t just try to grab the nearest tree branch, but instead grab a large jet ski, big enough to fit all of their employees, investors, and the patients, and maneuver through the stormy waters. That’s the approach to take in healthcare marketing during COVID-19. Organizations that hesitate and wait for sunnier days during this period of  long-term uncertainty won’t gain the upper hand, and might not survive.

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